A day in the life: Alumna uses lessons learned at The U during her everyday life

In the business world, the idea of fate holds little relevance amid number crunching and economic theories. For Lisa Gibbs, however, who has been the business editor of The Miami Herald since September 2004, serendipity played a role in getting her into the writing business.

“I was originally a math major, but I started working at The Hurricane by chance,” said Gibbs, a University of Miami alumna, class of ’87. “From then on, I hardly left the newsroom.”

On one fateful day, Gibbs came to the student newspaper office with some friends just to see what journalism was all about and ended up making a career out of it. She worked at The Hurricane for the rest of her college career, eventually becoming editor during her junior year. It was at The Hurricane that she learned most of the skills she uses everyday as an editor at The Herald.

“I think that every important lesson there is to learn about journalism, I learned it at The Hurricane,” Gibbs said.

Many of these important lessons came from the time she spent as editor, where she honed the leadership skills she uses at The Herald today.

“As an editor, I get to know everything,” Gibbs said. “But I’ve had to learn how to delegate without being involved in every article.”

Every Monday afternoon she puts those leadership skills to work. Gibbs sits in her office with the various editors of the business section as they plan what articles they want in the paper that week.

The tone is relaxed and the staff makes jokes. While Gibbs sits at the head of the room, she does not rule with an iron fist, but lets the conversation flow to form ideas-consensus is the norm for the business section.

“The staff is very collegial,” said Mary Rajkumar, deputy editor of the business section. “Lisa and I work well together. She’s a great boss.”

Prior to her work at The Herald, Gibbs wrote for Money Magazine, but the atmosphere was different from what she does now.

She worked at home in order to be with her two young children, now 10 and 12, a job feature that was very important to her at the time.

“I worked at home until two years ago,” Gibbs said. “You can make your career work according to your personal goals.”

Her work now keeps her away from home more than it ever did when her children were growing up, but Gibbs felt it was a choice she had to make.

“Sometimes I wonder why I left my cushy magazine job,” she said. “I had more time.but, I worked five years at Money Magazine. I got bored with what I was doing; I wasn’t happy during that last year.”

While Gibbs’ role as a mother influenced a number of her career choices, her role as a woman never interfered with the path she wanted to take in journalism.

While the image of business is very male dominated, that general belief did not faze her.

“It’s true that business writing used to be much more of a boys club, but I never had those issues. I think women are free to make a lot more choices these days.”

Gibbs has won a number of awards for her work as a business writer, including the Medill Financial Writers and Editors award for Best Financial and Business coverage and a finalist spot for the Gerard L. Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism.

Despite such success, Gibbs’ still manages to find flaws with her writing.

“There are some really talented writers out there that can write with great creative flourish and use metaphor and big speech, but I’m not one of them,” she said. “My strength is making complicated subjects more accessible, not more eloquent.”

Gibbs acknowledged the hard work and dedication it takes to make it in the field of journalism, but also indicated that she loves it with a simple smile and a nod.

Her advice to aspiring journalists: “Try as many things as possible, because while you’re a student you have the luxury of learning. If you make a mistake, mistakes are forgiven.”

Her other words of advice came in the form of a past regret, advice a student wouldn’t expect to hear from a distinguished alumnus

“I was too driven in college. My biggest regret is that I didn’t do enough partying.”

Although she may regret her lack of nights on South Beach, that drive to succeed is what put Lisa Gibbs where she is today.

Veronica Sepe may be contacted at v.sepe@umiami.edu.